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The Steel Index’s iron ore reference price up in August, June-August average slips

Spot prices for iron ore fines rose during August, supported by tight supply and strong buying interest in advance of an anticipated seasonal improvement in Chinese steel demand from September.

The Steel Index’s (TSI) reference price for 62% Fe iron ore fines ended the month at US$179.9/dry metric tonne cfr Tianjin port, the highest level since 6 May 2011, bringing the August monthly average to US$177.45/dmt – up 2.6% from July. This price will be used as the basis for monthly price contracts between many steelmakers and miners, as well as for the settlement of the majority of August iron ore derivative contracts.

TSI’s reference price for 58% Fe fines ended the month at US$156.5/dmt cfr, taking the monthly average for this grade to US$153.83/dmt.

"Despite a depressed global economy, iron ore prices showed extreme resillience throughout August," explains Stella Wu, TSI iron ore manager. "The monsoon hitting the east coast of India, as well as ongoing problems in Karnataka and shortages of domestic Chinese iron ore concentrate, have all contributed to extremely tight supply at a time when mills are looking to make bookings," she adds.

The end of August also represents the end of the 3-month "lagged" pricing quarter period of June-August, and the average spot price over this period will be used as the basis for many index-linked iron ore supply arrangements for the October-December quarter of this year. TSI’s average 62% price over this period was US$173.78/dmt cfr China, down marginally from the March-May average of US$174.82/dmt.

Based on TSI’s 62% Fe low alumina (2% Al) price and spot freight rates over the past 3 months, indicative FOB Western Australia fines contract prices for the fourth quarter of this year would be around 1% lower than the previous quarter, whilst indicative FOB Brazil contract prices for 66% Fe 2% Al fines material would be nearly 2% lower (see table) – although some contract price arrangements stipulate there will be no change to the previous quarterly price if the average spot price movement is less than 5%.

TSI revolutionised price reporting in the steel sector in 2006 when it began compiling steel prices based on transaction data submitted to TSI through its secure on-line system by key steel buyers and sellers. Since then TSI’s daily iron ore reference prices have been adopted worldwide as industry benchmarks for iron ore spot prices. They are used by mining, trading and steel companies as the index behind a wide range of physical pricing arrangements and as the settlement prices for over 95% of all cleared iron ore derivatives and futures.

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